A magistrate is considering community service for chutney singer Omadath Maharaj after he pleaded guilty to drunk driving, yesterday.
Magistrate Duane Murray raised the possibility of community service after hearing a mitigation plea from Maharaj’s lawyer Bhimal Maharajh during a virtual hearing, yesterday morning.
According to the evidence in the case, Maharaj, 56, of Las Lomas, was charged after police responded to a car accident he was involved in along the Caroni South Bank Road in Caroni on July 24.
Although neither Maharaj nor the other person involved in the accident suffered any injuries, a breathalyser test was administered and Maharaj had a reading of 85 microgrammes of alcohol for every 100 millilitres of breath. The legal limit is 35.
In calling for leniency, Maharajh noted that his client has been an entertainer for almost 25 years and is the leader of the Spread Pal Crew band.
“A conviction would mean Mr Maharaj’s international career would be significantly affected,” Maharajh said as he claimed that his client is booked to perform in the United States in November.
Maharajh claimed that on the day of the accident, Maharaj, known for his hits “Ramsingh” and “Balkissoon”, was mourning the death of a member of his band.
He claimed that Maharaj visited the deceased band member’s home and took four shots of rum with relatives and friends.
“Although it was not the correct thing to do they were in a period of mourning,” Maharajh said. He suggested that the high breathalyser reading was possibly due to Maharaj drinking on an empty stomach.
Maharajh also presented several testimonials from fellow chutney singers and Maharaj’s neighbours.
One of the testimonials was from George Singh, of Southex Event Management Company, which runs the annual Chutney Soca Monarch competition. Maraj tied for first place in the 2017 edition and was the runner-up the following year.
In considering the sentence for Maharaj, Murray questioned his concern for his career as he noted that Maraj still took the risk to drink and drive.
“If your lifestyle and welfare are important to you, you have to be responsible,” Murray said.
“You either drink and relax until you figure that you are good to drive, get a designated driver, or don’t drink at all,” he added.
While Murray considered Maharaj’s clean criminal record and that no one was injured in the accident, he noted that the court would not send a message to would-be perpetrators if he “walked away with a slap on the wrist”.
Murray requested a probation officer’s report on Maharaj’s suitability to perform community service and adjourned the case until January 4. Once Murray considers the report and he will set the hours of community service Maharaj has to perform. When Maharaj completes the community service, he can apply to the court to strike the conviction from his criminal record.